Meeting the Jewish Community of Mumbai India

Irene Shaland and guides inside the Mumbai Mogen David Synagogue

Excerpt from Irene Shaland’s book “The Dao of Being Jewish and Other Stories.”

Jews settled in Mumbai (Bombay) in the 18th century. First, the Baghdadi arrived in the 1730s. Then, the Bene Israel began migrating from the countryside into the city in the 1740s. Today, Mumbai has the largest Jewish community in India: 3,500 to 4,000 people, most of whom are the Bene Israel. We visited two of the city’s eight synagogues: Kenesseth Eliyahoo and Magen David. Both were built by the Sassons, the wealthiest family of the Baghdadi Jews. The elegant blue structure of the Magen David Synagogue was erected by David Sasson in 1861. Hanna and Eliyahoo were waiting for us inside.

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Discovering Jewish Connections in Sardinia

Cagliari

Sardinia is an island famed for its unearthly beauty. Sardinia is second only to Sicily in its size among the Mediterranean islands. Like Sicily, Sardinia attracted numerous waves of invaders: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, the Italian city-states of Pisa and Genoa, and the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon—all succeeded one another in dominating the island. The Northern Italians came last, with Garibaldi himself falling in love with the island. He chose to live the last years of his life in Carpera, Sardinia.

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THE JEWISH GREETING FOR THE SECULAR NEW YEAR

Reprinted with permission of the author, Rabbi Barbara Aiello

Throughout Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, the last day of the year is “party night.” On December 31st Israelis will celebrate along with the rest of the world but instead of shouting “Happy New Year,” Israelis do something different.  As the year turns from one year to the next, Israel’s Jews will wish each other a “Happy Sylvester,” a New Year’s greeting that invokes, of all things, the name of a Catholic saint!

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Irene Shaland’s Cuba article published by Mosaic magazine

Irene Shaland’s Cuba article  The Island within an Island: The Cuban Jewish Story of Survival was published on August 22nd by the Sephardi Ideas Monthly, a magazine of the American Sephardic Federation and Center for Jewish History Research of New York. On August 23rd, the essay was also published by the Mosaic, a magazine dedicated to advancing philosophical discussions related to Jewish history and Judaism. See the excerpts below:

http://bit.ly/2wKtbzx

Read more Jewish history stories in Irene Shaland’s latest book:

http://amzn.to/1PM8I1x

Siracusa is a Top Destination in Sicily

Ortigia area of Siracusa

Siracusa is truly a summation of Sicilian splendor, and if there is one city in Sicily that personifies this magnificent island it is Siracusa. The city is 3,000 years in the making and combines Greek and Roman civilizations with ancient Jewish culture and baroque masterpieces. Great history of Western civilization: Founded in 734 BC by Greeks from Corinth, Siracusa grew to become a city larger than Corinth and Athens, turning into a capital of Magna Crecia. It became an intellectual magnet that attracted the best brain power of the ancient world: from Aeschylus and Pindar of theater and poetry to Archimedes in mathematics and physics. 

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Masai – the Lost Tribe of Israel

Masai warrior dance

Masai Warriors – “God’s Chosen People”

This is a Jewish story of Africa that I found in the most unlikely of places: the vast plains of Masai Mara and Serengeti reserves. As we drove there, we saw the light-skinned, tall, slender people dressed in red, who were as ubiquitous to the landscape as sky above and earth below. Surrounded by their herd of cattle, they leaned on their long spears or stood on one leg in a stork-like pose. Bearing remarkable similarities to ancient Romans from North Africa, most had classical profiles, wore red togas and sandals, and were equipped with Roman-style short stabbing swords. Women had shaved heads, while the young men’s hair was plated and stuck together with red clay. To us, they looked like young mythical gods. These are the proud Masai (sometimes referred to as Maasai) people of East Africa, whose mysterious past is enveloped in legends of being one of the lost tribes of Israel.

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Finding Home away from Home – in Africa

Nairobi Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, Kenya

We were travelling all day: through the exotic strangeness of the Zanzibar Stone Town to the Nairobi airport’s thick mess of people and suitcases, sickening smells and deafening noises. Then again, through the traffic and dust and darkness of Nairobi streets, until all of sudden, like a mirage in the wilderness, we saw a brilliantly lit Jewish star. “Are you meeting with Barbara?” a voice asked. We were.

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What does it take to preserve Jewish identity if you are a Chinese Jew?

Irene Shaland and Mr. Jin at Jewish Cemetery in Kaifeng, China

October 2012, Again – Kaifeng, China. We are at the oldest Jewish burial place in China – with Mr. Jin in front of his life-long project, his family memorial. Our new friend dedicated his life savings and his entire life to create this marble memorial book which presents – engraved in English on one side and in Chinese on another – the 900-year story of Mr. Jin’s family within the context of Chinese history.

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